ARLINGTON, Va. -- Landon Donovan shouldn't expect an easy return to the United States national team. U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann sent that message loud and clear on Wednesday.
Klinsmann admits that Donovan's wavering commitment to the national team - missing several games due to either injury, MLS playoffs or pondering retirement - has threatened his once untouchable status. He insists that it is far from assured that Donovan will factor into the U.S.'s World Cup qualifying games.
"There are a lot of questions," Klinsmann said. "Looking back now, over the last two years that we've been in charge of the program, there have been a lot of players who have joined the program and are making a big impact, showing that they are 1,000 percent committed to the cause and to the team and have placed themselves in a very strong position.
"There are players clearly ahead of Landon now."
While it is obvious that Klinsmann recognizes and appreciates Donovan's status in U.S. soccer history - with the Galaxy forward being the USA's all-time leader scorer with 49 goals - Klinsmann pointed to the team's chemistry as an obstacle. Donovan has featured in only eight of Klinsmann's 25 games in charge.
"Going through that stretch of difficult qualifying games, we see the chemistry of the team developing and we try to have a clear picture of what every player brings to the table," Klinsmann said. "Most of the time, he wasn't a part of that process."
Donovan's last appearance for the national team came in a friendly on Aug. 15, 2012 against Mexico, the U.S.'s first win at Stadio Azteca. In that performance Donovan's playmaking ability and veteran experience were clearly valuable assets as he helped guide the team to a 1-0 result. Donovan first revealed his interest in retiring to Goal.com two weeks prior to that game.
"Why wouldn't I [consider retirement]?" he asked.
Klinsmann insists that Donovan's decision to consider his career isn't being held against him, but also explained that adding Donovan at this stage could affect the positive development that the team has seen over the past few months.
"That was his choice and I totally understand that, but at the same time we are moving forward at our speed," Klinsmann said. "It doesn't just come down to one game where he scored a goal to say now I'm back on the team. It doesn't work that way."
Klinsmann was in attendance for Los Angeles' 2-0 win over Sporting KC when Donovan scored a goal but says he hasn't spoken with him since January. Klinsmann wants to take his time in evaluating where Donovan fits into the squad and wants to be patient in deciding on his return. Even with 144 caps, Donovan still has much to prove.
"Things will develop over time," Klinsmann said. "We will see how he does over the next couple of weeks, months. We will look at the entire picture and make our call."
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